Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

The Knightly: An Interview with Pastor Mary

Photo courtesy
Pastor Mary participates in the Calvin tradition of jumping into the seminary pond in the middle of winter. Photo from the Chimes Archives.

Pastor Mary Hulst has been Calvin’s campus pastor for the past fifteen years. During her tenure as campus pastor, she has seen Calvin’s perspectives and priorities change under three presidents. Lauren Nyong interviewed Hulst for Chimes’ podcast The Knightly. In the episode, Hulst talks about her tenure at Calvin and her life outside of the pulpit. 


Lauren Nyong: Outside of being Calvin’s campus pastor, what do you like to do for fun?

Mary Hulst: Well, I have a dog and I have a husband, both of whom bring a lot of joy to my life. My husband and I like to hike, we like to travel, we like to explore new things. So being outdoors is a big part of joy for me. I also read a lot of both fiction and nonfiction. I find that [reading] really is just a straight-up joy. Particularly when I can’t get outside when the weather is changing.

LN: That’s awesome! What brought you to Calvin?

MH: So I was a Calvin student, and I remember being a student and thinking that the job of college chaplaincy looked like a really fun job. In God’s good providence, I was teaching at the seminary when this job was posted. I thought, well, it still looks like a really fun job, but I’ve only just started teaching at the seminary. But on one day, in October — so it actually is like, you know, 15 years ago now — I had people who wrote to me, all on the same day, and said “I saw this job posting, and I immediately thought of you.” So I was like, “Alright, Lord, I’m going to apply.” So I applied. I’ve been since 2009.

LN: If you had to use three words, how would you describe your tenure at Calvin?

MH: Delightful, varied and stretching.

LN: Can you speak to the delightful piece?

MH: I love my job. I love working with students, because our Calvin students are amazing. Our students are animated, they want to grow. They’re in a season of life where they’re very open to feedback and coaching and learning and they just seek out joy. Even if they’re in a hard season, they’re so grateful when you come alongside them, and you want to know them and love them and help them become their best self. That’s just straight-up delight. 

LN: And the varied part? 

MH: I do a lot of different things. So I jump in the sem pond, and I sit in board meetings and everything in between…So it’s just this amazing hodgepodge of all of these different things that I get to do.

LN: Is it ever hard to differentiate between being Pastor Mary and the fun-loving and excited Pastor Mary?

MH: I think, when you’re in ministry for a long time, and particularly at a place like Calvin University where you can bounce really quickly from one thing to another thing, I just learned. [For example,] the student is coming in, maybe they’re going through a breakup; they’re really sad. I need to meet them where they are right now. So the mirroring of emotion, the validating of someone else’s experience where they are in the moment, that’s a really important thing. That applies whether I’m going into a meeting, or whether I’m meeting with a student. 

LN: How has being a pastor at Calvin stretched you?

MH: Our student body has grown more diverse in their biblical and theological literacy background. Whether that’s a variety of students from the United States, a variety of students from around the world. So, in the [almost 15] years I’ve been here, to watch that population shift, and then constantly be adapting campus ministries, in light of the shift. Writing Bible studies, if I look at the Bible studies we wrote 10 years ago, they’re a lot more heady, and they assume a lot more. The ones we have right now, are very plug and play. Anybody who has never owned a Bible, can still participate. So that kind of adapting, and stretching and being like, okay, what does Gen Z need? That’s different from what the millennials needed. How do we move toward that? And the generation after Gen Z is called Gen Alpha, and what are they going to need? So you’re constantly adapting to the population that’s changing around you, so in that way, it’s been stretching in a good way. 

LN: What is something you’re working on right now? As a professor, as a pastor, as a human?

MH: There is a race in December that my husband and I will do called the Resolution Run. You run around Reed’s Lake on December 31, so we’ve got that one for sure. We may do a Thanksgiving race, it depends on where we are on Thanksgiving Day. But those are things I’m working toward, in my own self. My team and I are reading a book called Pursuing God’s Will Together by Ruth Haley Barton. [Barton] has been a really important person in my life. As far as both an author and a teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from her. She’s a spiritual director. She’s written a ton about spiritual practices and how they shape us. So together as a team, we’re learning about discernment.  Because,  as I said, as things change around us, we don’t just merely want to be reactive to what people think they need, we want to be really attentive to what God is up to. Not just say, God, please bless what we’re doing, but what is God’s blessing that we want to get involved in? 

Listen to The Knightly to hear more of Nyong’s interview with Hulst. 

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